IV workflow management systems and workarounds

A large portion of the most recent issue of the ISMP Medication Safety Alert is dedicated to IV workflow management systems (IVWFM) and errors caused by workarounds. There are a few head-scratchers in the list to be sure. There are even some that had me speculating their authenticity, i.e. too wacky to believe.

Data submitted to the ISMP National Medication Errors Reporting Program (ISMP MERP) have repeatedly shown that manual verification of intravenous (IV) admixture ingredients by pharmacy personnel who prepare solutions and pharmacists who inspect the final products is not particularly effective in detecting and correcting errors.” You can take this to the bank! Rule #1: people are people. They make mistakes and do crazy things sometimes. Rule #2: no amount of technology will eliminate rule #1.

However, as with any new technology that introduces an element of change, we want you to know about the workarounds and errors we have learned about with WFMS and why they may be happening so you can be as prepared as possible to address the when you assess or implement this technology. Some of these workarounds or errors are common to many other forms of healthcare technology.”

This is no doubt true as I’ve witnessed workarounds with pharmacy technology on many occasions.The sad truth of the matter is that no amount of technology will prevent people from finding workarounds. Just like no amount of manual processes and double checking will prevent workarounds. Unfortunately, these workarounds can lead to mistakes, which is what we are ultimately trying to prevent.

Typically, it is a combination of well-defined processes with appropriate technology that creates the safest environment. It’s also the best way to prevent workarounds. That and opening a can of whoop ass on people that don’t follow the rules; figuratively speaking, of course.

Here are some of the potential workarounds and errors identified by ISMP, many of which are similar to those seen with bar-code medication administration (BCMA):

Inability to scan the barcode — This is a common problem with any bar-code scanning process, i.e. BCMA, etc. Barcodes are far from perfect and will never be 100% scannable.

Reluctance to scan the barcode — Human nature. Go figure.

Scanning just one vial — i.e. scanning a “representative vial” when using more than one vial during CSP prep. Happens all the time.

Using a decoy for scanning or image capture — the old barcode-in-the-pocket scam.

Using the syringe pull-back method — hard to imagine that this is still going on in pharmacies across the country. It should be banned. Any facility caught using the syringe pull-back method should be fined heavily and mocked openly for their laziness.

Blurry or missing digital images — I’ve experienced this personally. Here are some images from one popular IVWFM system that were given to me. Can you tell, without any doubt, what the volumes are in these syringes? [If anyone has any sample images, I would love to see them]

Lapses in technique. “Use of WFMS touch screens can lead to touch contamination, especially when handling hazardous drugs. This and other lapses in hazardous drug handling and aseptic technique are not easily captured by the WFMS and may go unnoticed.” — No doubt a problem. Regardless of what technology you add to your process, proper technique in the hood is a must.

Interference with the scale. “ISMP has received a report about a WFMS with gravimetric technology for which the scale would not work in a laminar airflow workbench/biological safety cabinet due to vibration. Every time the pharmacy technician needed to weigh a product, he or she had to turn off the hood [what the heck!].” — not all gravimetric solutions are equal. There are at least two IVWFM systems on the market that do a great job with their gravimetrics. There is at least one that doesn’t. Any facility considering this technology should make sure to do their homework.

[Article] Evaluation of real-time data obtained from gravimetric preparation…

I am currently reading an article on the use of gravimetrics in the preparation of hazardous CSPs published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics.*

The article addresses data collected from a large-scale, retrospective analysis of medication errors identified during the preparation of antineoplastic drugs, aka chemotherapy. The paper looks at 759 060 doses prepared in 10 pharmacy services in five European countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland) between July 2011 and October 2015. While the sheer number of CSPs made over that period of time isn’t impressive, the fact that they’re all chemotherapy is. I believe this is the first article of its kind. I can’t think of another article that looks at the use of an IV workflow management system across such a large number of facilities, much less the use of gravimetrics during the compounding of sterile hazardous drugs.

The authors of the paper do a good job of: (1) addressing the use of gravimetrics versus image-assisted volumetrics, (2) covering the weaknesses of using syringes to measure small volumes (take a look at FIGURE 2 Tolerances of 1- and 5-mL syringes), and presenting a solid case for why gravimetrics is important for preparing hazardous CSPs. It also has some good images and tables, which I plan to refer to in future presentation.

In a nutshell “[e]rrors were… identified during weighing stages of preparation of chemotherapy solutions which would not otherwise have been detected by conventional visual inspection“. I find that this is the key benefit of using a system with gravimetrics, i.e. the accuracy of the dose doesn’t rely on human inspection. Overall, the gravimetric system caught errors in 7.89% of the 759 060 antineoplastic doses prepared. This percentage is consistent with other studies looking at CSP error rates.

A total of 13 831 errors for doses that deviated by more than 10% were caught by the system. That may not sound like a lot, but it can be, depending on the situation. Worse yet, 4 467 errors were off by 20% or more. Regardless of the situation, a 20% deviation in a dose is unacceptable. The significance, of course, is that a deviation this large could result in unintended toxicity or under treatment, depending on the direction of the error, i.e. 80% – 120% of the prescribed dose.

The article concludes that the “Introduction of a gravimetric preparation system for antineoplastic agents detected and prevented dosing errors which would not have been recognized with traditional methods and could have resulted in toxicity or suboptimal therapeutic outcomes for patients undergoing anticancer treatment.” I agree in principle with the sentiment, but believe that the authors overstate the significance of the gravimetric system while understating the importance of secondary checks. By stating that the system “prevented dosing errors which would not have been recognized with traditional methods” they are assuming that all errors would have made it past a pharmacist or other secondary verification method. It’s possible — maybe even likely — that some of the errors would have made their way past a secondary check, but not all. In many cases, chemotherapy preparations go through several step-checks during the compounding process. Typically, one of those step-checks is verifying the dose — volume in the syringe — prior to injecting it into the final container. Errors are often discovered at this point in the process. With that said, the author’s overzealous conclusion shouldn’t take away from the importance of gravimetrics in preparing CSPs.

Do yourself a favor and go get a copy of the article. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.

The online article is here.

A PDF copy can be downloaded here.

——

Notes:

The system used in all the pharmacies was BD Cato.

BD funded the project. While this can raise some red flags, I don’t think it’s enough to disqualify the data. Other companies, like Baxter, sponsor half of the sessions on compounding safety at ASHP Midyear. I for one am happy they do it. Support from companies like BD and Baxter go a long way in bringing important topics like compounding safety to the masses. So, focus on the use of gravimetrics, not on the company that sponsored the paper.

*Terkola R, Czejka M, Bérubé J. Evaluation of real-time data obtained from gravimetric preparation of antineoplastic agents shows medication errors with possible critical therapeutic impact: Results of a large-scale, multicentre, multinational, retrospective study. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2017;00:1–8. https://doi/org/10.1111/jcpt.12529

Automated detection of LASA medication errors

 

Look-alike/sound-alike (LASA) medications – also referred to as sound-alike, look-alike drugs (SALAD) (1) — have been a thorn in the side of healthcare professionals for as long as I’ve been a pharmacist.

Many solutions to the LASA problem have been proposed, including Tall Man Lettering (2), physical separation of look-alike drugs, printing of both brand and generic names on packaging and storage bins, use of colorful warning labels, and so on and so forth. The problem with all these solutions is that they involve humans. Working in acute care pharmacy has taught me over and over again that as long as humans are involved there will be errors.

Technologies can help. Automated carousel technology and robotics can help manage physical separation of the medications and eliminate visual bias generated by human eyes. Bar-code scanning can certainly aid in identifying medications correctly. Bar-codes don’t care that medications have similar names, they’re either right or wrong.

In a recent article by Rash-Foanio (3) et al. the authors use an algorithm to flag potential errors from LASA drugs when an order meets the following criteria:

  1. a medication order is not justified by a diagnosis documented in the patient’s record
  2. another medication whose orthographic similarity to the index drug exceeds a specified threshold exists
  3. the latter drug has an indication that matches an active documented diagnosis.

In the study the authors perform a retrospective analysis to identify errors that involved cyclosporine and cycloserine. The algorithm wasn’t perfect. Sixteen orders involving unique patients were found. Additional chart review of the errors discovered that 5 (31%) identified by the algorithm did not involve a medication error, i.e. the intended medication was correct. However, the algorithm correctly identified 11 (69%) LASA errors.

While it may not catch all LASA errors, it seems that EHRs should give AI and some deep learning serious considerations for items like this. Preemptively catching greater than 50% of LASA errors is better than catching zero. (5)

——-

  1. I came out of pharmacy school having learned the phrase “sound-alike, look-alike drugs” (SALAD). At some point it changed to look-alike/sound-alike (LASA). Not sure when, how, or why it changed, but them’s the breaks. Just go with it. Adapt or die, I suppose.
  2. I’ve never been a fan of tall-man lettering, and it isn’t even clear that it works to reduce errors.
  3. Rash-Foanio, Christine et al. “Automated Detection Of Look-Alike/Sound-Alike Medication Errors”. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy7 (2017): 521-527. Web.
  4. Kondrak, Grzegorz, and Bonnie Dorr. “Automatic Identification Of Confusable Drug Names”. Artificial Intelligence in Medicine1 (2006): 29-42. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
  5. Honestly, one of the simplest things we can do is force providers to select an indication when ordering LASA medications. That simple act has the potential to significantly reduce these errors.

Does tall man lettering work?

First of all, is it tall man, tall-man, or tallman? And why is it called “tall man lettering” when none of the letters are actually taller than the others? Heck if I know. Just more questions in a mountain of questions piling up around tallMAN lettering.

Pharmacy Practice News: “[The study] found that there hasn’t been a substantial drop in drug name mix-ups since use of tall man lettering became widespread around 2007… “We saw no reassuring trend of declining rates of errors,” said study author Chris Feudtner, MD, PhD, MPH, a pediatrician at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, in Philadelphia…If tall man lettering were working, the researchers expected to see a significant decrease in these types of errors after 2007 when the JC began recommending that hospitals implement tall man lettering and other typographic drug safety measures. No such drop was seen.”

The entire use of TaLlMaN lettering has always seemed odd to me. I could never understand how it would keep anyone from grabbing the wrong medication. I mean seriously, who in their right mind would confuse SUMAtriptan with ZOLMitriptan, or ARIPiprazole with RABEprazole. Crud, they’re not even remotely close when one considers the alphabet. When searching for the drug within a CPOE system one types “sum…” or “zol…”, not “…triptan. C’mon, people!

One classic mix up is hydrOXYzine and hydrALAzine. They definitely have similar names, but the former is an antihistamine used to treat itching, while the latter lowers blood pressure by exerting a vasodilating effect through a direct relaxation of vascular smooth muscle, i.e. it’s a blood pressure medication. Why the heck would anyone want to use a blood pressure medication to treat itching? They wouldn’t.

Perhaps it would make more sense to simply put the drug class or use on the packaging. You know, hydroxyzine [antihistamine/itching] or hydralazine [vasodilator/blood pressure]. Better yet, let’s require prescribers to place an indication on all orders: hydroxyzine 25mg PO Q6H PRN ITCHING versus hydralazine 25mg PO Q6H FOR BLOOD PRESSURE. Might even be educational for some prescribers.(1)

How about we spend a little time creating smart EHR’s that know when something is amiss?(2) A system that won’t let the provider select a medication for an inappropriate indication without jumping through some hoops. Something like “You sure about this, bruh? Hydralazine isn’t typically used for itching. Were you trying to prescribe hydroxyzine?”(3)

Now combine smart prescribing practices like those above with safety measures in the pharmacy like barcode scanning for verification. Selecting the wrong medication in the pharmacy is always possible and happens for a host of reasons, regardless of t.a.l.l.m.a.n lettering. Barcode scanning is a pretty good way to help ensure that you have the prescribed medication in hand.

Overall, I’m not surprised that T-A-L-L-M-A-N lettering didn’t make much of a difference in the study. Even though it’s become a standard of practice, I don’t know that I’ve ever bought into it. My preference would be to use better technology with a little common sense.

If you’re interested in reading the article (BMJ Qual Saf 2016;25[4]:213-217; BMJ Qual Saf 2015 Dec 16. [Epub ahead of print]), it can be found here.

 

—–

(1)    You might be surprised to find out how little some practitioners know about the medications they prescribe. I constantly appalled by the prescribing practices that I see in the acute care setting.

(2)    Something like AI or ML, perhaps. Hmm…

(3)    That’s kind of how the call goes when you have to let a prescriber know they may have inadvertently selected the wrong drug.

Microneedle patch for monitoring drug levels

Medgadget: “A collaboration between researchers at the University of British Columbia and Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland has developed a microneedle device for drug monitoring. The device is in a form of a patch that’s stuck onto the skin, painlessly pushing microneedles through to sample the interstitial fluid…The proof-of-concept device reported by the team was used to measure the concentration of vancomycin.”

microneedle-optofluidic biosensor

This is something that has been sorely needed for a long time. As a pharmacist, I can confidently state that we spend entirely too much time looking at drug levels that are within normal limits versus evaluating those that are not. It would seem much more efficient, at least in the acute care environment, to ignore “normal” levels and spend our time investigating those that are out of whack.

In the outpatient environment this makes even more sense as a patient safety measure. Imagine never again having a patient urgently admitted to the hospital for a drug level that’s way too high. Think of all the medications that require at least intermittent drug levels: carbamazepine, phenytoin, digoxin, tacrolimus, and so on.

Side note, my mother was taking tacrolimus around the time of her liver transplant. An EHR charting error occurred that resulted in her receiving 10 mg orally twice a day instead of 1 mg orally twice a day; yep, a 10-fold error. True story. Almost killed her. The small-town hospital where she lived didn’t recognize the symptoms and failed to get a drug level when she was admitted for “dehydration”. Several days of pleading with physicians and calls to UCSF resulted in a level being drawn. It was off the charts. She was subsequently transferred to UCSF where she spent the next six weeks in the ICU. The entire ordeal could have been avoided with real-time drug monitoring. Just sayin’.

The scope of IV room errors

There’s an interesting article in Pharmacy Practice News this month (In the IV Room, Robots Come to the Rescue). While the title of the article is a bit misleading – I think ‘rescue’ is a bit strong – it does contain quite a bit of good information.

The article discusses some of the technology being used at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston, and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Mission Bay pharmacy. I’ve been in both pharmacies. BWH and UCSF both make extensive use of technology, but believe me when I say that they have very different approaches. Anyway, the article is worth a few minutes of your time.

Deep in the article, the author, Rajiv Leventhal spends a few paragraphs discussing the scope of the problem in the IV room, and some of the challenges of using robotics. Rajiv acknowledges that the iv room is a dangerous place for a host of reasons.

Regardless of the technology chosen, the need to automate IV compounding to at least some degree is hard to dispute, given the relatively high rate of errors that occur when technology is limited. In 1997, when many of the recent advances in robotics were not available, the error rate for IV compounding was 9%—or one mistake in every 11 medications coming out of the IV room.

As for the main cases [sic] of those errors, many factors have been identified, including sterility and other drug safety issues, according to a safety alert released last year by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. The alert identified five core causes: 1) depreciating importance of the compounding and dispensing processes in pharmacy practice; 2) lack of knowledge and standardization around best practices; 3) training based on traditions handed down from one pharmacist to the next; 4) learned workplace tolerance of risk and routine practice deviations that persist; and 5) a reluctance to learn from the mistakes of others.

It seems intuitively obvious that the use of technologies like iv workflow management software, barcode scanning, gravimetrics, imaging, and even robotics can potentially decrease errors described in the article referenced above (Am J Health Syst Pharm1997;54[8]:904-912 ). However, of the causes identified in the second paragraph, only #2 can really be addressed with the use of technology alone. The rest of the items listed are symptoms of a deep-seeded problem growing in pharmacies today, and that is the failure to understand the need for our profession to provide patients with medications in the most efficient, safe, and economical way possible. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but it’s true nonetheless.

Most (all?) pharmacies I visit these days tout initiatives to improve patient care through increased ‘clinical activities’ of pharmacists, including electronic chart review, ADE follow-up, rounding with the medical team, monitoring and adjusting medications, antibiotic stewardship, and so on. However, I rarely, if ever hear directors talk about efforts to improve operations through streamlined processes, automation and technology, standardization, and heaven forbid, increased use of technicians and non-pharmacist personnel.

Examples of this can be found within open job listings at various healthcare systems. Recently I visited an acute care pharmacy with a large budget for several open ‘clinical pharmacist’s positions’ but no budget for improving operations or automating processes. In this particular case, a fraction of the money being allocated for open clinical pharmacist positions could be used to make significant improvements to the medication distribution process.

It’s an interesting dilemma for pharmacy directors. While spending tens of thousands of dollars on automation and technology to improve operations may not seem sexy, it goes without saying that a vast majority of care for a hospitalized patient involves getting the right drug at the right time. A majority of that falls to nursing staff, but the pharmacy owns a piece of the medication distribution/administration process. Nurses can’t administer medications if they’re not readily available, or wrong.

Regardless of what direction the profession wants to go, it is important that we understand that pharmacy is, at this time, tied to distribution. We must find ways to extricate ourselves from the medication distribution process first before we can begin to truly realize the benefits of pharmacists in patient care. Each time an error occurs for lack of focus, training, or sheer disinterest, the profession suffers. Preventable medication errors involving the pharmacy causes both the public and other healthcare practitioners to lose trust in our ability to get the job done. It’s difficult to recover from lack of trust. Think about it.

Frequency of and risk factors for med errors during order verification

error

A friend and colleague of mine and I were talking about pharmacy order verification and errors the other day.

Many (all?) acute care pharmacies use the number of orders entered/verified by pharmacists per unit of time as a performance metric. The theory being that the more orders you verify the busier you are and therefore the more work you do. Sounds logical. And it is. And it also isn’t. It is because more orders typically equates to a heavier patient load and/or sicker patients, which in turn results in more work. It isn’t because some orders – and the associated distribution of medications associated with those orders – are significantly more complex than others. Chemotherapy is a good example of this. The amount of work required to verify and dispense your average chemotherapy order is several orders of magnitude greater than an order for, oh I don’t know, a saline-lock.

So in theory, a pharmacist verifying more chemotherapy will certainly have lower numbers than a pharmacist verifying routine medication orders. However, when evaluating the number of orders verified over an entire year, one would expect the number of complicated orders handled per pharmacist to average out over the long haul. That’s not complicated math, just common sense.

Assuming that every pharmacist is on equal footing, and that the number of orders verified is a reasonable performance metric, what then is a reasonable number of orders to be verified per hour, per shift, or per year to be considered good, bad, or average? It’s impossible to say. One would think that the higher the number the better the productivity. Here’s the thing, during periods of high volume order verification, pharmacists make more mistakes. Not just mathematically more, i.e. 1% of 300 is more than 1% of 200, but a higher percentage of mistakes.

From a blog post at the American Pharmacist Association (APhA) website: “the number of medication errors increased with the number of orders verified per pharmacist per shift” … According to the findings, the verification of more than 400 orders per shift per pharmacist was associated with the highest risk of errors…“Once we got to the 400 mark, meaning 400 orders verified per pharmacist, [we] started to reach a higher number of errors,” said Christy Gorbach, PharmD, coauthor of the study“. The study referred to in the APhA post is this one.

So it would appear on the surface that using volume of orders verified as a performance metric is actually driving pharmacists to make more mistakes, thus leading to less productivity, not more. (1)

With the increased adoption of EHRs, the number of orders verified per pharmacist is only going to grow. EHRs have made order entry quick and easy. Physicians create lists – favorites, order sets, etc. – that allow them to simply check a box and put patients on multiple medications in a matter of seconds. This is especially true for what I refer to as “don’t-call-me” orders. Don’t-call-me orders consist of multiple PRN medications to cover everything from fever to constipation; all designed to prevent the physician from receiving a phone call at 3 o’clock in the morning, i.e. don’t call me. Most of these orders go unused and simply complicate the medication profile and medication administration record.(2) Verifying such a large number of redundant, benign orders creates alert fatigue and selective blindness which ultimately leads to something important getting missed.

All in all, the results are increased verification numbers, more work, and as it turns out, more errors. Unfortunately, I have no answer to the problem. And make no mistake, it is a problem. Orders have to get verified and released, and patients must receive their medications in a timely manner. With that said, safety must also be a top priority. Medication errors are unacceptable.

Overall, it appears that using volume of orders verified by a pharmacist as a performance metric is a bad idea. I think it’s time to slow down, pay attention, and create an environment that rewards pharmacists for the quality of their work, not for the speed at which they perform it.

———————————————————–

  1. Medication errors can lead to all kinds of problems, among them wasted time.
  2. All the pharmacists reading this are shaking their head and grinning because they know exactly what I’m talking about. What pharmacist hasn’t seen a post-op C-section order with 15 to 20 PRN medication orders, including half a dozen different pain meds that never get used? It happens all the time.

Witnessing errors in the iv room

I spent a short time observing iv preparation in two separate, distinctly different pharmacy environments in the weeks leading up to the new year.

One was a traditional iv room in a large acute care pharmacy with multiple pharmacy technicians and pharmacists putting out hundreds of compounded sterile preparations (CSPs) per day. The second was a segregated compounding area in a satellite pharmacy with one pharmacy technician and one pharmacist using a glove box to prepare STAT and first dose CSPs to critical care areas.

Syringe pull-back method

Neither area utilized technology for CSP preparation, instead opting for the good ole fashioned syringe pull-back method (1). In the case of the traditional iv room, I observed instances of up to twenty different CSPs with empty vials and syringes laid out awaiting pharmacist verification. In the segregated compounding area with glove box, CSPs were typically prepared one at a time or in small batches.

During my short time observing CSP preparation in the two areas I witnessed errors that would have easily been caught with the use of readily available technology.  Here are two examples:

Wrong drug selection – This may be the most common error seen in iv rooms. In this particular case, the technician used a vial of potassium phosphate (KPhos) for a CSP that called for sodium phosphate (NaPhos). The use of bar code scanning for verification during the compounding process would have prevented this error.

Calculation error resulting in an incorrect dilution – A patient-specific order called for 20 mg of hydrocortisone in a total volume of 2 mL to be placed in a syringe for iv administration. The technician started by first making a stock hydrocortisone syringe from which to draw the dose. This is a common practice. The resulting stock syringe should have contained 100 mg of hydrocortisone in 10 mL of solution, i.e. final concentration of 10 mg/mL. Instead, the technician calculated the final volume as 25 mL, resulting in a final concentration of 4 mg/mL in the stock syringe. So when the patient-specific dose of 2 mL was drawn into the syringe the final dose was only 8 mg. The pharmacist almost let it go, but something made him take a second look. It was only when he asked the technician to explain the process that the error was discovered. The use of bar code scanning for verification during the compounding process would not have prevented this error. But, the use of step-by-step instructions with intermediary step checks during the stock syringe prep, or the use of gravimetrics, would have.

The number of CSPs prepared in iv rooms daily in the United States is unknown, at least to me, but has to be somewhere in the neighborhood of a million. (2) Combine that with published literature that puts sterile compounding errors around 11%, (3) and that’s some scary stuff. With numbers like these, I wonder how many mistakes make their way to the patient?

The iv room is a busy place with a lot of dangerous medications. It’s also a place where a lot of errors occur.  With the availability of commercially available products that can easily prevent these types of errors, there’s really no excuse for continuing to use a completely manual process.

———————

(1) Syringe pull-back method is when the empty syringe used for each drug or electrolyte is left alongside the item with its plunger pulled back to the volume that was added. The pharmacist looks at the empty syringe with plunger pulled back and compares volume to the volume necessary to accurately prepare the CSP. This is common practice in many pharmacies even though it has been declared unsafe. I continue to be surprised that pharmacies use the syringe pull-back method.

(2) Using a number of 1.5 CSPs per patient, per day in acute care hospitals, and using 795,603 licensed Community Hospital beds in the United States (1999 – 2013 AHA Annual Survey, Copyright 2015 by Health Forum, LLC, an affiliate of the American Hospital Association), the number of CSPs produced per day in the United States exceeds 1 Million.

(3) Am J Hosp Pharm 1997;54:904-912

ISMP responds to deadly drug error in Oregon

Last week I wrote about the tragic death of a patient caused by a drug error (CSP error results in death of a patient). One day later on December 18, 2014, ISMP also addressed the error in the Acute Care edition of their biweekly ISMP Medication Safety Alert, i.e. one of their newsletter. I had hoped that ISMP was going to provide much greater detail and insight into the error, but that’s not the case. At least not at this point, anyway.

I had hoped to find out what occurred in the pharmacy to allow such a mistake to happen. Perhaps more details will come to light as time goes on. All we can do is wait.

With that said here are some things from ISMP worth noting:

To prevent inadvertent use, identify neuromuscular blockers available within your organization and where and how they are stored. Regularly review these storage areas, both inside and outside of the pharmacy, including agents that require refrigeration, to consider the potential for mix-ups.

Limiting access to these products is a strong deterrent to inadvertent use. Consider limiting the number of neuromuscular blockers on formulary, and segregate or even eliminate storage from active pharmacy stock when possible.

Restrict storage of paralyzing agents outside the pharmacy and operating room by sequestering them in refrigerated and nonrefrigerated locations.

ISMP recommends highly visible storage container for neuromuscular blockers (one example here: www.ismp.org/sc?id=458).**

ISMP recommends affixing warning labels on vials and admixtures that clearly communicate the dangers of neuromuscular blockers.**

ISMP recommends the use of IV workflow technologies. “Now is the time for hospital leadership to support the acquisition of IV workflow technologies that utilize barcode scanning of products during pharmacy IV admixture preparation.” While the article lists only three systems, there are several on the market [see  In the Clean Room TOC for a current list of many of the available systems].

————————————-
**I know that many think this is a good idea, but I’m not so sure that I’m one of them. On the surface, using highly visible storage containers and labels might seems like a good idea, but over time people become used to the idea and become blind to the differences. In addition, over the years the number of items that require alternate storage and labeling has grown, making differentiation “the norm”. It’s like the student that highlights everything in the textbook with five different colors. Eventually the entire book is highlighted, making the process meaningless to the reader.